Returning to work after maternity leave.
Firstly, where did that year go? So much has changed yet now it all seems to have happened in the blink of an eye. Today I complete my first week back after my maternity leave.
To say it was daunting and on my mind for months before I returned is an understatement. My main issue was my confidence or lack thereof! I wondered how much had changed in the office in the past 12 months. How hard would it be to get back up to speed? How am I going to juggle aiming for ‘mum of the year’ and working full time? Can I cope? Don’t even get me started on the levels of self-doubt! This went from ‘Could I even walk a pair of heels anymore?’ to ‘What if someone asks me about the economy?’
Crazy right? Not at all, this is how many ‘returning Mums & Mams’ feel. So here I am, one week done and all is well with the world. I realise I am confident, capable and best of all, my daughter still seems to love me!
Here are some of my tips for a smoother ‘returning to work’ experience;
Plan your childcare waaaay in advance. Fact, your child is pretty much guaranteed to get sick almost the second they start crèche. The crèche my daughter goes to suggested starting her two weeks before my own return to work date. This was excellent advice as we (baby & I) certainly experienced a few ‘less than good days’! It also gave me two weeks to look at things like - my new route to work; practice my new morning routine; find my ‘work clothes’ and realise that the best order of events included dressing myself last. Other sequences resulted in food and other unidentifiable stains on my clothes! Not a great look for the corporate world!
Meet your boss a week before your return
Chances are your boss can’t wait for you to get started and will happily say ‘Great, you’re back – here is your schedule’ and leave the room. Remember, self doubt is at peak level so be honest. A coffee with your boss letting them know your concerns, your nervousness, your lacking in confidence (it turns out, this was all unfounded) will make ‘The Return’ A LOT easier. I was nervous, really nervous. I felt that after a full year off my brain was a less ‘well-oiled machine’ and more ‘bowl of mashed potato’. It was also giving me a chance to give a heads up on potential crèche illness epidemics (in the previous two weeks we had a cold, a tummy bug and a dose of hand, foot and mouth – fun times!). Thankfully my own boss couldn’t have been more supportive and baby illnesses seem to have abated.
What are your options?
You have options. For me, I opted to use my remaining annual leave to accommodate a 4-day week. There is also parental leave and extended maternity leave. Details on these can be found here. Discuss these options with your employer and have a clear goal in mind. The 4-day week really has eased my transition.
Get stuck in
This is the most important one. For me it had to matter to me –if I was going to justify leaving my baby in crèche it absolutely had to be for the right reasons – which for me, is to do my job to the very best of my ability. Do what frightens you the most first – if it is picking up the phone, do it first. If it is reviewing audited accounts – do it first. Don’t languish in your seat and allow yourself some “settling in weeks”. You were great at your job before and are still great (also you’re paid to be there), so just jump right in. It will be better for your confidence because you know, not that much has changed in a year. The evolution of mankind did not suddenly accelerate in your absence!
Whether it’s six months or a full year it is a long time alone with your little shadow and it is of course a wrench to imagine life without them by your side 24 /7 but with the right planning and approach you will succeed! Embrace it! Taking your time to approach ‘The Return’ with the right mindset has made my first week A LOT smoother than I thought and I am enjoying it. Turns out I missed my company, I missed my colleagues, I missed business radio and the Renatus weekly update! I even missed my work clothes. Go figure!